"Your faith has saved you" in the Gospel of Luke

 
Luke depicted by a winged bull

Luke depicted by a winged bull

As I study the Gospels I am always amazed at the emphasis of bringing in the Gentiles and outcasts into the kingdom of God. The new people of God are defined by their faith rather than ethnicity or ritual purity. The Gospel according to Luke is no exception. From the start there is emphasis on the Gentiles and outcast being brought into the kingdom of God (Lk. 2:31–32; 3:6; 4:18–19 etc.).

One emphasis that is played out in the Lukan narrative is the key phrase ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε (your faith has saved you). This phrase occurs four times in the Gospel and each time it is in relation to an outcast.

  • Luke 7:50 - In the surrounding pericope Jesus is eating with the Pharisees and a “sinful woman” comes and anoints Jesus’ feet. This alarms the Pharisees, to which Jesus replies that she will be forgiven much because she loved much. Jesus tells the woman that she has been forgiven and concludes with “ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε· πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην" (your faith has saved you; go in peace).
  • Luke 8:48 - In this section a woman who had “a discharge of blood for 12 years” goes to Jesus and touches him and she is healed. He says to the woman, “θυγάτηρ, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην” (Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace).
  • Luke 17:19 - This story Jesus approaches 10 lepers between Samaria and Galilee and has mercy on them. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priest and Luke says that they were ἐκαθαρίσθησαν (cleansed). The Samaritan returns to give praise to God and Jesus tells him “ἀναστὰς πορεύου· ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε" (Rise and go; your faith has saved you).
  • Luke 18:42 - Finally, Jesus heals a blind man who cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus replies, “ἀνάβλεψον· ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε" (Regain your sight; your faith has saved you).

In each one of these stories it is the outcast from society (one was even a Samaritan!) that Jesus saves because of their faith. In my opinion Luke has intentionally blurred the lines between spiritual and physically healing. The individuals who come to Jesus are saved, both from physical illness/disability and spiritual illness. The kingdom of God is one in which the people of God have been restored. We are told that the already-not-yet(ness) of the kingdom says that we are restored spiritually but Jesus gives us a glimpse of the physical restoration that will also happen in the new kingdom.

The theme of peace is also present in these stories. Jesus told both woman to go in peace. The gospel is a gospel of peace. At the beginning of the Gospel the angels are praising God saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased. The woman can go in peace because through their faith they have found God’s favor.

Side note: The ESV makes a hard and fast distinction between spiritual and physical healing. In the encounter with the “sinful woman” the ESV translates “your faith has saved you” but in the other pericopes it is translated “your faith has made you well.” I think this interpretive judgment actually weakens Luke’s use of σῴζω, which he has purposely intended a two-fold meaning. The Greek word σῴζω carries this two-fold meaning while the English word “save” is primarily used biblical only in a spiritual salvation context. A word that could possibly bring out this double meaning would be “restored”. This word carries the idea of bringing something back to its original state. This is probably an imperfect solution but I think we should attempt to bring this two-fold meaning into English the best we can.